Heatwave and MS, is 34C (93F) too much to handle?


It seems that the media generally has become somewhat fixated on the heatwave being experienced in various countries worldwide.

As a native Brit, I am well used to everyday conversations including the topic of the weather. It’s a staple of chat, an icebreaker.

heatwaveAnd, in the UK I left behind, people will be complaining about the heat. “It’s too much,” will be an oft-heard comment. I am sure this is equally true of other countries where people are not used to high temperatures.

The latest news from the UK is that the heatwave is forecast to continue with a high of 34C (93F) expected.

But is 34C that hot? Is it unbearable? While I feel for those who have MS and experience heat sensitivity*, the truth is that places like the UK are just not prepared. They are not ready for winter snow, summer sun, or floods caused by heavy rain.

Be prepared for higher temperatures

Lisa and I moved to Andalucía in southern Spain almost three years ago. For us, 34C is not excessive but a common summertime temperature. Here, we are ready for it. And, in August, we fully expect many days when the thermometer will register highs in the 40sC (100sF).

heatwaveTo us, living in the countryside but just 15 minutes from the Mediterranean, these are just regular summer temperatures NOT a heatwave.

How do we cope? Spain is prepared. Our home has air conditioning. Additionally, we have ceiling fans in the living room, our bedroom and our spare bedroom. Our car has AC too. Although that is not unusual in the UK, as a luxury, here we use it for every trip in the hot weather.

It’s important we are all ready for the temperatures in which we live, so we can enjoy them.

Are summer highs in the 40s, that’s more than 100F, “too much”? Not for me. Even with MS, I enjoy day after day of sunshine. It’s so different from the cloudy skies and rain so typical of usual summer weather in the UK.

*Webmd says that heat or high humidity can make many people with multiple sclerosis experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms. Doctors believe that this occurs because heat causes nerves (whose myelin covering has been destroyed from MS) to conduct electrical signals even less efficiently.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a freelance medical writer and editor for various health information sites. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

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Note: Health-related information available on 50shadesofsun website is for your general knowledge only. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. I am not a doctor, so cannot and do not give you medical advice. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues. Also, consult a doctor before starting a new diet or exercise programme. Any opinions expressed are purely my own unless otherwise stated.

Sensitivity to heat not affected by summer sunshine

heat

As summer continues with temperatures in the 30°s C (high 80°s), the hottest days now seem to be behind us here in the south of Spain. The temperatures peaked at over 100°, so the high 80°s is quite pleasant.

What’s more, the good news is that the hot weather has not caused me any heat sensitivity problems at all. But then, that’s exactly what I expected. And that is because my heat sensitivity is triggered by changes in temperature not consistent heat.

Some people were concerned about heat exhaustion when the learned that Lisa ad I announced we were moving to Spain, two years ago. But after a series of sudden temperature changes experienced in the UK, this is a walk in the park.

Heat in your marriage

Talking of my beloved Lisa, she never ceases to amaze me with her selfless dedication to my wellbeing.

I have heard from so many people with MS who have split up ad divorced when their partners decide that a life as a caregiver isn’t for them. It is so sad.

Lisa has known that I have MS right from the start of our relationship, I never tried to hide it. She agreed to marry me knowing what was in store for us both. Furthermore, her granddad had MS too, so she knew more than most husbands and wives when their spouses are diagnosed as having MS.

Perhaps that is not incredible, perhaps it should be expected but there are many who have found that not to be the case. The “till death do us part” of the marriage vows appears to have been lost on their partners.

Do you have the loving support of your spouse or have you split up? And just how does heat sensitivity affect you, or doesn’t it? Please let me know.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Healthline, the fastest growing health information site. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

Too much sunshine not good for young children or people with heat sensitivity

Having left a mainly editing and managing role in April, I now have more time to devote to writing. And, to be honest, that is where I am happiest.

Now I am writing for Medical News Today as well as paying much more attention to this blog. This had suffered through lack of time during the last year.

With more time available, I can now write articles that, before, were put on one side. And that starts today.

A news story caught my attention a couple of days ago. It was about a warning from NHS England and the Meteorological Office reminding parents that suntans on children are unhealthy.

Apparently, a survey suggests a third of parents believe, mistakenly, that going brown is good for children, But, a tan doesn’t stop the sun’s harmful UV rays. Instead, it is damaged skin trying to protect itself.

Clare Nasir, tv weather presenter and meteorologist, said: “Protecting against skin cancer isn’t something parents should leave to chance.

“UV levels are usually highest between May and September. Clouds don’t always stop UV rays, and unlike the sun’s warmth, it’s difficult to know when they may be harming you.”

Boost vitamin D but don’t overdo it

Dr Nigel Acheson, from NHS England, said although exposure to some sunlight was good for boosting vitamin D levels, people should not overdo it.

“We typically recommend that people spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes in the UK summer sun, unprotected, several times a week,” he said.

heat“People who spend more than 15 minutes in the sun on any given day, should apply sun protection factor 15 or higher.”

Nicola Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: “There’s no such thing as a safe tan, from the sun or sunbeds.”

“While everyone needs a little bit of sun for vitamin D, most children and adults get enough from a short amount of time outside, less than it takes to burn.”

Apart from UV rays, too much sun can also hurt many of us, both with and without multiple sclerosis, who have heat sensitivity. Usually, this is caused by it being too hot, too cold or, for anyone like me, when it’s too changeable.

Top tips to avoid the sun’s heat and UV rays

British weather was too changeable for me, which is why Lisa and I moved to Spain. It gets really hot here but that’s ok for me because it’s constant.

So, what top tips are there to avoid being affected by the high summer temperature? Here’s a few:

  • Avoid extreme temperatures – If you love to be outdoors, limit your time in the sun. Go indoors to cool down. Don’t overheat or you’ll pay for it over the next few days.
  • Use cooling equipment – If you are outdoors for a time, make sure to keep cooling products available.
  • Keep yourself hydrated – Water is the best drink to fight dehydration and quench your thirst. Iced water is even better.
  • Wear lightweight clothing or clothes that breathe – Wear loose, lightweight and light coloured clothing. I recommend a light summer hat, too. That provides your own portable shade.
  • Plan ahead and remember timing is everything – If you are going to be outside, get your timing right. Avoid the hottest part of the day.

Heat sensitivity is unpleasant and makes symptoms of MS and other disabilities worse. But that is only temporary (pseudoexacerbations). The heat does not cause more damage.

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Affiliate disclaimer: This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of MS, Health & Disability at 50shadesofsun.com with other companies and products. Read more.

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50shadesofsun.com is the personal website of Ian Franks, a Features Writer with Medical News Today. He enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor in the print media. He gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. Ian received a diagnosis of MS in 2002 and now lives in the south of Spain. He uses a wheelchair and advocates on mobility and accessibility issues.

 

Taming Heat Sensitivity at 100 Degrees

Many people voiced their concerns to me about anyone with MS moving to live in a sunny climate. That worry is understandable. With a disease that includes heat sensitivity, where even a hot shower can make you worse, how can any MS patient move to live in an area where daily temperatures average 22 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit) in July and August, but where the highs this year have reached 40 C (104 F).

Well, it is now nearly 10 months since my beloved wife Lisa and I made the move from the mostly cloudy and often rainy U.K. to our dream home in Andalucía in the sunny south of Spain.

Back in the U.K., we lived in a ground floor one-bedroom apartment in an urban area, but now we have our own detached two-bedroom property in a rural community about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the nearest town.

With almost constant blue skisouth of Spaines, our home is nothing short of idyllic. We have palm trees visible from our kitchen window, an olive tree in the front garden, plus both orange and grapefruit trees very close by. And, in 15 minutes, we can be at the Mediterranean.

Our home has air conditioning and ceiling fans, plus we have an air conditioned car. I live in shorts and lightweight shirts, use plenty of sunscreen, and have a selection of summer hats.

Our home is just over 1 km (0.6 miles) from the main road, and that is reached by traveling between agricultural fields where, depending on the time of year, various crops are grown. So far, I have seen white cabbages, red cabbages and melons – to name but three.

The fields are planted and harvested by hand using gangs of traveling workers. Then, after the crops have been picked and sent on their way, a large herd of goats is released to clear the remaining plants.

Yes, it is hot here, but the good news is that it is affecting me less here than the very occasional hot day in the U.K., and that is because the humidity is much lower here.

The temperatures are more constant here, too. They change more slowly than in the U.K., where they can change up 10 or more degrees Celsius one day and down again the next day during what passes as summer. That volatility, the sudden changes, made me feel a lot worse. It took me a while to realize that my heat sensitivity was to those rapid and often frequent changes. I needed stability.

So having lived in Spain for most of a year, I can say that heat sensitivity is not an issue for me here. Overall, I still have good and bad days, but good now seem to outnumber the bad. Yes, I still fall, but far less often than used to be the case. Fatigue still happens but, again, less often. Pain is far less prevalent, too, but restless leg syndrome still plagues me in bed.

Mobility, or the lack of it, remains my biggest problem. But on my very good days, I can actually reach my car without sitting down halfway there, like I usually do.

So, do I regret exchanging the U.K.’s dreary weather for the almost constant Spanish sunshine? Not at all. Living it and loving it and, don’t forget, more sunshine means more natural vitamin D.

This article was written by me and first appeared in Multiple Sclerosis News Today.

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Ian Franks
Ian Franks is Chief Columnist and Patient Specialist at Multiple Sclerosis News Today. He has enjoyed a successful career as a journalist, from reporter to editor, in the print media; during which he gained a Journalist of the Year award in his native UK. He was diagnosed with MS in 2002 but continued working until mobility problems forced him to retire early in late 2006. He now lives in the south of Spain and uses his skills to write his own flourishing specialist MS, Health & Disability blog at http://www.50shadesofsun.com. Besides MS, Ian is also able to write about both epilepsy and cardiovascular matters from a patient’s perspective and is a keen advocate on mobility and accessibility issues.

Heat sensitivity can affect us all differently

red sky at night spainMany people were amazed when they heard that Lisa and I were packing our bags and leaving the UK and moving to Spain where we arrived last November. It wasn’t just the move that took them by surprise, it was the fact that we were moving to sunny southern Spain. To Andalucía to be exact.

“How will you cope with the heat?” was a question that has been asked many times since we announced our plans to move. It’s a reasonable question bearing in mind that heat sensitivity is a common feature of multiple sclerosis. That’s when people with MS can often experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms during very hot or humid weather.

Of course, we know that it is not just weather, it could be because of overheating by taking a hot shower or taking excessive exercise.

Heat sensitivity can cause some people to experience a temporary increase of their usual symptoms. Exhaustion and lack of balance are just two things of many that can get considerably worse.

These temporary changes can result from the very slightest increase in body temperature; it can be as small as one-quarter of a degree. And, speaking technically, higher temperatures further reduce the ability of a demyelinated nerve to conduct electrical impulses, so making symptoms worse.

In my case, I guess that it is good fortune that my heat sensitivity is not about extremes of hot or cold but the speed and frequency of changes between ordinary hot and cold. Although the UK is not renowned for extreme weather, temperatures can vary widely from day to day-

So moving to Spain has taken me to a more constant, less changeable environment. So, while it may be hotter, it is more comfortable for me.

It also comes with many more hours of sun.  In fact, here we tend to talk about days of sun here. And that brings a great increase of naturally-created vitamin D.

MS or not, life in Spain is pretty sweet with an air-conditioned home, with additional ceiling fans, nestled among palm trees, as well as trees bearing olives, oranges and grapefruits. Oh, and yes, I drive an air-conditioned car.